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School districts unite, searching for hard-to-find students still needing an internet connection

75,000 families across Dallas County lack reliable broadband access right now, but some of these families are proving hard to find.

DALLAS — Connecting all kids to the internet this school year so they can go to school is a monumental effort. But it's a challenge that’s brought together school districts and community leaders in Dallas County to search for the hardest-to-find kids who still don't have online access or a computer to do it with.

Compounding the problem is raging unemployment and the unprecedented transience of low-income families. 

Many are moving out of some districts and into others because of evictions or because they've moved in with family members in other communities. Children in those families have proven very hard to locate with phone calls, emails and even door knocking.

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Jeanie Stone is the superintendent of the Richardson ISD, which started all-online classes Aug. 19.

“I know there has been a lot of shifting of families to other districts. Moving in with relatives. Having to move where they can afford rent prices, those kinds of things. It's a bigger challenge then I think it's ever been before,” she said.

Richardson and DeSoto are two of the 10 school districts and a broad coalition of non-profits coordinating a county-wide effort called the Internet for Dallas Coalition. The other districts are Arlington, Dallas, Denton, DeSoto, Garland, Grand Prairie, Irving, Lancaster, Plano and Richardson school districts.

Internet for Dallas pledges to connect every student in the county - Kindergarten through community college - to high-speed broadband in their homes by January 1, 2021.

Their first collaborative project is the "Get Connected" hotline number 972-925-6000. Any family that calls and requests an internet connection and a computer for their student will get one from their school district.

And it’s so critical to find these kids. Internet for Dallas estimates 75,000 families across the county lack reliable, broadband access right now.

“Going door to door is one way but to be able to cast a wide net of one number, call this number and help is on the way that really is a much more target approach,” Stone said.

Does your family need to get connected? Do you know one that does? Everyone is welcome to call 972-925-6000.